Market Wrap: Aus shares close slightly down

Market Reports

Aussie shares closed slightly lower today, having received strong negative leads from overseas markets, with concerns lingering over conflict in the Korean peninsula and European debt. Local shares recovered from earlier losses, boosted by a lift in Telstra.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index closed 4 points weaker to finish at 4,585. On the futures market, the SPI200 is down 10 points.

In economic news: The Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown total construction work unexpectedly dropped 2.1 per cent in the September quarter, with New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia recording the steepest falls. While the Housing Industry Association and Commonwealth Bank housing affordability index increased 3.6 per cent in the September quarter, the report says the read was a mere blip in a year which has seen affordability across the country slide 18.3 per cent.

To company news: Independent senator Nick Xenophon says the National Broadband Network will cost an extra $5.5 billion without the cooperation of Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX:TLS). The comments come following news the Gillard government is closer to passing the NBN legislation and is soon to release a summary of the business plan which is expected to cost $7 billion less than first estimated. Shares in Telstra closed rose 1.46 per cent to close at $2.78.

Lynas Corporation Ltd (ASX:LYC) has confirmed that it is in advanced talks to secure additional supply of rare earths for the Japanese market. The announcement comes following Japanese public broadcaster NHK today reporting that Lynas has entered a $300 million 10-year agreement with trading house Sojitz Corporation. Shares in Lynas Corporation climbed 10.47 per cent to close at $1.53.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd’s (ASX:VBA) expects a 6 to 8 per cent rise in key domestic network capacity, but says amid an uncertain outlook for air travel it is unable to provide full year earnings guidance.

Healthcare product developer Acrux Ltd (ASX:ACR) has moved a step closer to launching Axiron, designed to boost male sex drive. The company today announced US regulators have approved the underarm spray.

Household goods retailer Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd (ASX:HVN) has cautioned the market to expect a sizeable profit fall in the second half of this year as competition grows in online retailing and through aggressive discounting.

Sources have told The Australian Pike River Coal Ltd (ASX:PRC) will struggle to survive and may not trade again. Following last week’s explosion at its New Zealand mine, 29 miners remained trapped. In news just out, it is believed that a second explosion has struck the mine with no one believed to have survived.

In the best and worst market performers: The best performing sector was Telco Services which closed 12 points higher to 960. The worst performing sector was Consumer Discretionary with the index dropping 12 points to 1,504. The best performing stock in the S&P/ ASX200 was Lynas Corporation as shares were 10.47 per cent stronger at $1.53. Shares in Mt Gibson Iron and Sundance Resources also closed higher. The worst performing stock was Infigen Energy down 6.98 per cent to $0.60 cents. Shares in Ten Network Holdings and Transpacific Industries Group also closed weaker today.

In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,375 an ounce. Light crude is up $0.39 at $81.64.